A recent column from a vice president of Hudbay, the company that owns the Rosemont Mine, suggests Southern Arizonans should be grateful to the company for creating “precedent-setting standards for environmental protection and resource conservation” under which the mine will be constructed. Actually, the facts say the mine would be a precedent-setting environmental disaster.
Let’s focus on indisputable facts about the Rosemont Mine — Hudbay will blast and dig an open-pit copper mine that will be a ½-mile deep and a mile rim-to-rim and pile mine waste 700 to 800 feet high in a watershed that provides a significant amount of drinking water to the Tucson basin. Over 5,000 acres would be affected by the mine, including almost 4,000 acres of public land that would be covered by the mine’s waste and tailings dumps, open pit, processing plant, and infrastructure. The pit and waste dumps would remain as a permanent scar and environmental hazard on our public land.
All of the items listed by Hudbay as “commitments” by the mining company amount to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and the Titanic is our Southern Arizona environment.
More facts: The negative impacts on our water that would result from this mine. The mine would use about 4.8 million gallons of fresh water daily, amounting to approximately 5,000 acre-feet per year, for a total use over the mine life of about 100,000 acre-feet. One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons. Thus, the Mine is projected to use 32.5 billion gallons of water. And, water, not copper, is our most important natural resource.
Rosemont is proposing to pump our best-quality drinking water from wells in the Santa Cruz Valley near Green Valley and Sahuarita and pipe it almost 20 miles over the mountain to the mine site to wash rocks. To make matters worse, there are no legal limits on their water use. Arizona water law allows mines to pump an unlimited amount of groundwater
During mining, the pit would be actively pumped, drawing in water from the aquifer. This would negatively impact existing well-owners as well as Cienega Creek and Davidson Canyon.
When active mining ends and the pumps are shut off, a pit lake would form. It would continue to suck water from the surrounding aquifer in the Davidson Canyon/Cienega Basin and would continue to do so in perpetuity. Its impact on our water resources would be permanent. Also, the pit lake would be toxic to wildlife.
Stormwater runoff from the mine site would threaten regional water quality. Before its flip-flop on the Rosemont water permit, the U.S. Army of Corp Engineers stated that “the proposed Rosemont Mine will cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards and significant degradation of waters of the United States” and thus the permit should be denied.
Now, all of the Corps’ conclusions contradict what its own experts, as well as those with the Environmental Protection Agency, Pima County, and other agencies, have said for years — this mine will devastate the waters and lands of the Santa Rita Mountains.
In a bureaucratic sleight-of-hand, and without any notice to the public, by limiting its review to just the initial “grubbing, clearing and filling” at the site, the Corps now refuses to look at any of the impacts from the mine itself, especially the permanent pollution from mine facilities and dewatering of the aquifer. Its assertions of “no significant impact” flies in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary — and just plain common sense.
Hudbay cheerleaders suggest that the purported economic benefits of the mine, much of which will be exported to China and Canada, will appease us so that we will overlook all of the devastating impacts of this project. But, Arizonans know that the negative economic impacts that will arise from contaminating our water and spoiling our land are much more significant than any short-term, financial contributions this mine may provide.
It’s plain to see that Hudbay and its foreign owners get the copper and the cash, and all we get are a huge hole in the ground and depleted and polluted water.
The devastation from this mine would be far-reaching and permanent; therefore, we will continue this fight in every possible way and in every proper venue.